There was a day when if you wanted a green lawn, you grabbed a bag of fertilizer and loaded up your toy spreader. The amount used did not matter, just the joy of showing the neighbors you had skill and most certainly cared for your green piece of America. Even if your efforts created a checker board of stripes, it was fun and those dark green stripes glowed at night. It was most likely a hack job at best, but you did not mind- until the neighbor starting using a lawn company.
No one paid attention to soil pH, fertilizer leaching, amounts, weeds, or pesky bugs- what disease? Then came liquid gold from Chemlawn started in the 60’s, spraying lawns with fertilizers that delivered a color response in mere days. As the decades passed more companies sprung up and manicured lawns became an obsession and passion each glorious spring to fall. Someone just raised the stakes in the game of lawn poker meaning throwing down fertilizer would simply just not do.
How much fertilizer was enough? Who could know? Suburban streets became lined with tiles of green, lawns created a patchwork within each town or city. Too much of any good thing can cause harm and the volume of materials applied for decades will undoubtedly be measured into the future in respect to pesticides.
The bad part about synthetic fertilizer is it requires a lot of propane or oil to manufacture. One ton of Urea (N) takes 5 tons of petroleum to manufacture. I like chocolate too but wow! How much is enough? In the days of hybrid cars, solar energy and alike, we need to give a hard look at how much fertilizer is really needed and if there are alternatives. The good news about fertilizer use is there are alternatives and the use of standard fertilizers must continue to decline in the future. How long can we continue to rely on manufactured fertilizers when it depends upon a finite resource like oil or some other petroleum product? Just like a hybrid car uses less gas and employs additional technology (batteries, biofuels) to function- so lawns can continue with less fertilizer (gas) and employ other means (kelp, compost tea, mycorrihizae, rhizobacteria, lime) to stay healthy and green.
Perhaps a good course of action would be to start reducing our use of old style fertilizers now while moving toward other management systems before there is a shortage of petroleum. Planning ahead takes thought and moving in a new direction takes education and determination. Staying the same is really not a good option based upon the need to conserve energy. In this case, helping you lawn run more efficient and healthy by itself, while using organic and natural products seems like a good place to start. There is no need to run out of the kitchen yelling fire- stop using fertilizer, but certainly- like a spice- fertilizer should be used in moderation. After all, you would not put lots of garlic on everything right? Yuck!